Banyi Huang | Ian Gouldstone: Exploring the Lifecycle of Digital Objects | CoBo Social

When we play computer games, the goal is to be hyper-engaged and defeat the opponent. When we meditate, we let our minds wander to achieve a calm and spiritual state. Though the two cannot be further apart from one other, Ian Gouldstone manages to use the mechanisms of the former to come close to the latter, allowing chance operations to prolong repetitive movement into an imponderable infinity. Inside SLEEPCENTER’s dimly-lit gallery space, the artist has created a somewhat self-contained universe using elemental shapes and luminous colors, ruminating on the philosophical implications of motion, order, and chaos through code.

Needless to say, artists have long explored the poetic aspect of technology and programming, but to do it well requires not only a level of technical expertise, but also an awareness of established modes in which new media objects are often exhibited and understood. Many, including theorists and practitioners, approach new media as if it could only be accessed through a rectangular screen, whether a projection, monitor, or computer screen, often linking such a framing mechanism to historical lineages of cinema and photography. Gouldstone, however, takes active measures to break out from the screen, setting up environments that attempt to collapse the perceived distance between the observer and the observed, the alive and the inanimate, human and other.

Occupying the entrance area, Instrument (2018) consists of software-generated structures projected onto three yoga balls, which are each affixed to wooden stools. The viewer is invited to sit on the floor, coming at eye-level with moving elements in the piece: a dot tumbles inside a circle composed of dots, at times rebounding from the momentum generated from hitting another dot, at times escaping quietly through the spaces in between. While initial parameters are determined by code, the dot’s trajectory is a product of chance. Whenever it bounces against a border, it makes a crisp, resonating sound, as if a gong is being struck. Combined with the installation’s simple geometry, its spectral shadows, and repetitive movement, the intimate soundscape pulls the sitter into a meditative trance. Drop Process (2018) employs a similar strategy of toying with randomness and expectations. Unlike Jenga, which is a manual tower-building game designed to test the player’s coordination and dexterity, the work simulates a scenario where rectangular blocks are dropped to form stacks, either reaching a precarious balance, or destroying the stack to form a new one.

Like artist Ian Cheng, Gouldstone uses gaming simulation and procedural generation to stage a state of uncertainty and instability. It is worth pointing out that simulation is normally understood in terms of representation, of replicating a system in real life through mathematical models, whether for purposes of recreation or functional prediction. But what happens when simulation takes on a life of its own, and generates its own rules of thought and behaviour? As illustrated by the fear provoked by Facebook’s AI algorithm inventing its own language, humans are regularly threatened when machines acquire a sense of vitality, thereby infringing on anthropocentrically territory. As such, Wanton Boys (2017) is an abstract exercise in exploring the ambiguous lifecycle of software-generated digital objects. Varying in size and dispersed in groups, x-shaped forms are projected onto wooden blocks distributed throughout the space. Algorithmically-controlled, they fluctuate between a state of inactivity and frenzied scissoring movement, not unlike a sophisticated version of the Tamagotchi—a handheld digital pet popular in the late 90s. While it is unclear to what degree of independence these forms are operating on, the work is undoubtedly a simulation of the imaginary realm of digital life, and, as the title suggests, it gestures at the liminal moment when the spinning ‘x’ shapes burst out of the imprisonment of two-dimensional space.

In his treatise De Anima, Aristotle outlines a conceptual foundation of Western thinking: movement constitutes one of the fundamental feature of the soul, that which distinguishes life from inanimate matter. The exhibition asks, is it then possible apply the same level of inclusive understanding when movement crosses over to the realm of software and digital objects? In these works, the unpredictability of the result frustrates, while the repetition reassures, and it is the space in between feelings of frustration and reassurance that opens up a new understanding of our own positionality.


Ian Gouldstone - IN THE SHADE BUT NOT THE SHADOW curated by William Lee
May 18th – June 17th, 2018



杨紫 | Pity Party 干扰惨淡的派对 | 艺术世界 Art World


Art World, issue 330, June 2018

pp. 98-104.



去年10月,我在深圳偶遇SLEEPCENTER的创始人林锐,并听他大致描述此地展场的环境,萌生了策划展览“Pity Party”的念头。SLEEPCENTER坐落于曼哈顿下东区唐人街一条不算繁华小巷的地下室,前身是“北京公馆”。20世纪初,中国北方移民曾在这片福建人的地界租下这座逼仄、潮湿的洞穴。他们往往生活困窘,从事报酬微薄的体力劳动,或许为了排解内心的郁闷,在此处结识同乡,谈话、赌博、嫖娼、取乐,有时候也居住于此。几年前,刚刚在纽约结束学业的林锐对这个无人问津的、价格低廉的空间进行大幅改造,隔出储物空间和展示空间,试图将它营造成艺术家工作室和展厅。尽管改造颇为成功,水房漫出的刺鼻味道,以及挥之不去的苍蝇,还是提示着它的过往。在空间正上方盘旋的西禅寺,占用了楼房的一层,将门脸改头换面,居然也颇具中式风格。念经僧人的袅袅佛音,在下午布展期间出来透气的时候,能听得一清二楚。




在2018年寒冷的初春,简陋的纽约地下展场和富足的美国梦幻同时纠缠在我脑海。我来到纽约,坐上SLEEPCENTER的另一位合伙人李沛原的汽车,径直奔向布鲁克林区的“Party City”派对百货商店。我惊讶于这里琳琅满目、应有尽有的派对用品,以及收银台前排起的长队。我了解在《老友记》等等美国电视剧中频繁出现的家庭派对是美国文化的重要部分,但未曾料到它形成了如此规模的产业化。超过860家“Party City”零售商店将40,000种派对商品(我从美国股票投资类的网站得到这些数据)流通到千家万户,让人们在熟悉不过的环境里,从日常的反复和疲惫中抽离出来。


拿着战利品——鲜艳、喜庆的彩旗、气球和塑料门帘——回到SLEEPCENTER,我们开始装饰 “洞穴”。我希望将国人对美国的向往勾画成具有如第二段所述的时代氛围困境,反衬出参展的艺术家对此有意无意的反应。在我看来,他们戳破不切实际的幻想肥皂泡的办法,并非是消耗所有精力对社会或艺术系统进行表演性抵抗,而是在有原则地吸纳和处理生存现实基础上,自觉地给自己提供一个警惕、孤独和隔绝的思考和创作环境。这些作品的气质和呈现它们的场域几乎形成了对峙的局面。


外在的世界被暂时隔离之后,自我的感受和意识状态浮现出来——“PITY PARTY”表面看起来像一场对“自我”概念考察的展览。李维伊邀请一对恋人蒙上印着自己脸部画皮的围巾,然后亲吻,以观察自己出窍。作为展览的开场白,艺术家直接将客观化的自省视角摆在观众面前。李琦、曹澍、高源等人的作品均体现出了自传性质。李琦、高源和宾冰展现了意识流淌时记忆、现实、想象的切换状态;而李然影射了自己工作方法——探寻湖底般的潜意识抓取信息,再跃出水面让它们见得天日。在展场最深处,几位中国美院的校友(曹子林、崔绍翰、黄晶莹、李明、唐潮、朱昶全)将共同的经历和表演积累成一个海量的视频资源库,他们从中各取所需,按照各自视角编排出面貌各异的片段,留给观众广袤的完形空隙。展览的尾声是曾对国美观念艺术深远影响的已故艺术家耿建翌在1990年代创作的第一件录像作品《视觉的方式》。三频录像中,濒死鸭子的眼睛忽闪,时而分泌出泡沫,是在极度虚弱时能表现出最大气力的悲恸。深邃的眼睛似乎能反射出屏幕之外世界的倒影,倾其残留的片刻,尽力与永恒运转的世界融为一体。


展览中所有的作品都是录像。展览给人的基本印象,是狭长、深邃的地下展厅之中播放着晃动的幻影,让人联想起柏拉图著名的洞穴隐喻。在洞穴说中,囚徒们生活在不自由的、被灌输虚假信息的环境。过分用力的布展方式五彩斑斓、夺人眼球,让人联想起当代文化批判对“洞穴说”的套用方式,即消费至上的物质生活有益无害,像是口味诱人、满足快感却营养贫乏的垃圾食品。有些“浪漫主义反讽(romantic irony)”意味的是,以“猴子捞月”为题的录像也组成了这些“囚徒幻影”的一部分。“囚徒们”一不小心欣赏到了自己未曾反思的牢狱生活。或许,这也是艺术家们在剪辑《灌肠III:猴子捞月》时的心情。他们从事着艺术工作,不懈挖掘着自觉处理着的幻象。创作者之一李明在一次微信聊天中这样开玩笑说:“猴子是愚蠢的,这是人类的看法,他们捞月亮可能在做点白南准(式)的水波碎片效果吧。”我并无挑衅经典文本的意图,但在艺术的领域中,我不相信真实和虚妄是不可动摇的铁板一块。我着迷于在艺术作品中观看到永无止尽的颠倒和反转,以及滞留在思辨灰色地带的勇气。我同样认为,绝对正确的真实是随着时空转换不断变化的价值判断,在跨文化、地域的条件下展示我所熟悉的艺术家的作品时,这种清晰的混沌、微妙、狡猾和晦涩,是中国当代艺术短暂脉络中逐渐萌芽出的价值导向。



顾虔凡 | 魏晓光谈“持久像素” | Artforum


艺术家魏晓光正在纽约SLEEPCENTER举办个展“持久像素”(Durable Pixels),展览中的一系列画作以极其逼真的手法描绘虚构的场景、荒谬的物件拼贴、甚至对电脑拟像进行写实,他通过绘画对抽象与叙事、心理层面的内外观照、绘画的历史与当下的新媒介等议题进行探讨。展览期间,魏晓光还与艺术家Jeffrey D’Alessandro持续进行一项在绘画与雕塑间跨越媒介的合作。在采访中,魏晓光谈及对自己作品“数码样式主义”的定义,他在绘画中想要呈现的不合理现实,以及他对绘画媒介本身的思考。


在艺术史上,欧洲绘画的样式主义(Mannerism)侧重于对文艺复兴大师风格的模仿,因为本身没有提供更新迭代的内容而受到批判。反观中国艺术,如果后来者没有首先师承前人,甚至都无法被审美语系所接受。书法、国画、京剧等中国传统的艺术形式,其内容涵义和风格在创作时已经锁定在表达系统的框架中,比如每个人写出的字意思是相同的,京剧脸谱的图案是程式化的;但是像《肚痛帖》这种文本含义没有太多艺术性的便笺反而突出了张旭的草书,使表现元素本身成为经典。对我来说,“样式主义”的意义,就是带着对表达系统的局限性的意识进行创作。实质上,中国书法的核心概念同波普艺术中贾斯珀·琼斯(Jasper Johns)画国旗、标靶,安迪·沃霍尔(Andy Warhol)画梦露的意义相通,二者都是本体论艺术。当图像的元素高于内容的时候,就会形成“样式”。它并不是一件坏事,它有可能让创作者打破范式跳脱出来,去回顾样式的起承,然后进行重新发明。对图像元素局限性的理解,在当下数码媒介的演化中也有反映,比如早期电子游戏的制作力求场景的逼真,但是当整个行业可以轻易呈现相当程度的现实感时,以往开发者试图抹去的方块像素反而被审美化,成为了新的样式,像是2012年左右开始流行的《我的世界》(Minecraft)等。


在媒介更替极速加剧的当下,同样的叙事内容通过媒介更新而呈现出不同的版本;而版本演化本身,是否已经开始替代艺术家的设计,成为新的艺术演化动力?在 “绘画已死”的艺术史时期,我认为绘画当然仍有可能带给人新的视觉经验,而对图像元素有限性的意识,总是把我带回绘画最原初的问题:画什么、怎么画。

— 文/ 采访/顾虔凡


Siqiao Lu | Twenty-First-Century Oracles: Interview with Mountain River Jump! | ArtAsiaPacific

2017. 7. 17

The identical twin sisters who make up the artist-duo Mountain River Jump! debuted in New York City. Their solo show “Reality Check 鬥法” transformed a Chinatown basement into a ritual space, where they played the roles of astrologer and shaman. Amid the installations of personalized tarot cards, a ceremonial fire GIF, and a video of star charts at Monroe Street’s art lab Sleepcenter, I met up with Guangzhou-based Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) and Huang He (Yellow River), whose names uncannily allude to the grandeur of the Chinese nation. The artists offered a birth chart reading, and I had the chance to ask them about the trajectory of their practices.

In this interview with ArtAsiaPacific, Mountain River Jump! discuss how their common interests and unique knowledge system prompted them to form an artist duo, how they connect the culture of divination with collective psychology, politics and visual culture, how ancient methods of image making and ritual practice have influenced their understanding of art, and finally, what they struggle with in their material and spiritual lives as young professionals in China.  

Your works in this show tell me that each of you has a distinctive path shaped by different conceptual questions and practical approaches. Before 2016, you mostly worked separately and only collaborated a few times. What prompted the decision to officially form an artist duo?  

River: Mountain River Jump! started in January 2016 at Guangzhou’s 5art Space. Our shared interests—spirituality, divination and the supernatural—are outside of the dominant culture, and uncommon in contemporary art practices. The duo creates a zone for us to explore questions that I previously considered inappropriate to discuss in my work because they are personal and sometimes bizarre. Our current direction with this platform is cultural psychology and collective unconscious.

Which of your earlier ideas have continued to draw your attention?

River: My works focus on the gradual evolution from my personal psychology to collective psychology. I made drawings about collective memory—Point at. . . (2016), for example, depicts the situation in which several people point at one individual, calling him a dog, and he somehow becomes a dog. I’m influenced by Carl Jung’s idea of collective unconscious, and believe that this is what the so-called “subcultural” phenomenon of divination is fundamentally about. Although we observe the common need for divination—astrology as the most popular form—it is still a hidden stream of thoughts running underneath the intellectual discourse.

I think Roland Barthes is quite right to criticize the way astrology has become “the literature of the petit bourgeois world,” but I still want to explore the connection between Wu Xing (Five Elements) and contemporary politics. Focusing on “the Star Chart” – Cultural Psychoanalysis (2017), the video installation in the show, demonstrates my theory that the star arrangement on the Chinese national flag relates to the feudal idea of the divine right of kings.

Mountain: I work with ancient imageries. Modeled after pre-modern divination cards, Chinese Immortal Cards of the 21st Century (2016–17) associates the professions of ancient immortals with contemporary occupations, indicating that a certain professional identity corresponds to a specific worldview or personality.

Unlike the images surrounding us nowadays that function primarily as decoration, ancient ones embody sacred beliefs and manifest the people’s attachment to the spiritual realm—as seen in archeological sites from Mawangdui to the Shang tomb of Fu Hao. Previously, I’ve made GIF amulets, downloadable from computers and cellphones, to respond to contemporary fears and needs, such as the fear of random computer crashes, and demands on the progress of the feminist movement. Behind the GIF amulet is shamanic thinking, a suggested positive approach to conceptualize one’s desires and requests. Ancient paintings with spiritual functions were sometimes painted by shamans. Thus, our methodology may bring us closer to the original purpose of art-making.

Divining the future using Chinese Immortal Cards of 21st Century and other sets of animal cards is not your first time fusing artistic gesture with spiritual practice. In the light of your collaboration with Cao Fei in A Three Day Treatment: Feng Shui Cleansing (2011), how have you evolved since? 

Mountain: I find the 30-minute cleansing ritual quite naïve now. We gathered objects with cleansing functions, such as spice, mineral salt and water, and placed them within the space according to the five elements. The audience watched attentively and followed us while we were moving around.

River: Similar to the performance, which is a personalized ritual based on the classic model, our current approach to divination cards have predecessors in the ancient times. The texts and images on these cards function as oracles, the subject of which is specific to a cultural episode—for instance, the Oracle of Kuan Yin (also called lottery poetry) often quotes plots from popular novels, such as the classics Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dream of the Red Chamber. Ancient intellectuals, who share the same beliefs with the commoners, sometimes invent a set of lottery poetry for the enjoyment of literary elegance. We originally wanted to investigate the cultural history of language through Cards of Chinese Animal Idioms: Legends in Human World (2017), but ended up using it in divination in order to have some kind of interaction with our audience.

In conjunction with this exhibition, you led a small cultural anthropology field investigation group to visit and pray at a dozen temples in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The locality and itinerary of this exhibition and its programs contribute to the integration of the artistic practice into the larger social realm. Can you tell us more?

River: Rui Lin, the curator, designed the course of this investigation. I find that co-existing temples of different styles and distinctive characters testify to the complexity of communities in Chinatown. We know that the temple previously on the ground floor of Sleepcenter preserves the original images and statues from one of the three boats that came from a temple in Fuzhou; the other two boats sank. People constructed these sites out of the desire for security and cultural identity, and they manage to maintain prosperous fronts for these temples despite the heavy history of immigration. The story is quite touching.

What are the challenges of creating works that treat spirituality as the primary subject in China? Who are the artists that inspired you? Do you think the so-called “religious revival” in China will benefit your practice?

Mountain: There are many challenges. Despite our persistent efforts in presenting our work as a specimen of comparative cultural studies, our audience insists that it is only about fortune telling. And we began to understand the severity of cultural discontinuity in China—most people don’t know the ancient immortals’ names, let alone their professions. I find Lu Yang’s audacious use of images encouraging. She is also a follower of Tibetan Buddhism.

River: The religious revival in China is a managed and controlled revival, which provides little room for new discoveries. It is more about tourism and psychological comfort. I’m inspired by Yin-Ju Chen, an artist from Taiwan, and Chinese artist Zheng Guogu.

Are there any new exhibitions or projects coming up? Can you give us a preview of something that you’re working on now?

Mountain: Recently, I showed Inanimate Sattva (2017) at Canton Gallery. This work incorporates stickers of animated characters that I put a lot of effort into making when I was a video game designer. Inspired by the idea of animism, I wanted to develop a dialogue between animate and inanimate matter through these cartoon characters endowed with my life. The autobiographical video installation also reflects the harsh living conditions of young professionals in China. 

River: Contrary to the usual portrayal of the youth as consumers, Mountain presents them as producers. I’m researching the connection between the myth of the dragon and a sea creature.


Howie Chen | Mountain River Jump! | Artforum


We are in a struggle of competing realities. The Guangzhou-based collective Mountain River Jump!—comprising identical twin sisters Huang Shan and Huang He—locates this conflict in a dimension where transcendent forces govern complex relations in our world. “REALITY CHECK 鬥法” is an exhibition bearing two names (the Chinese portion can mean “battle of magical powers”), embodying the strange agonism at play. A series of sculptural and diagrammatic works presents a syncretic cosmology that analyzes the mythical, political, and technological realms we experience.

In Chinese Immortal Cards of the 21st Century, 2016–17, a circular cosmogram made of divination cards maps the crossroads of traditional beliefs and secular modernity. Each card connects a modern cultural icon with an esoteric Chinese god. High-profile figures such as movie actors, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals represent various themes, including death, power, and justice. In this new mythical universe, the ascendance of technology is undeniable. On one card, the image of the world in ancient Chinese cosmology is replaced by Instagram’s logo. This syncretic system becomes a tool for Mountain River Jump! to interpret the meshing of traditional, Communist, and Western life. Each scenario in the exhibition demonstrates how this divinatory practice is a form of cultural psychoanalysis—as both spiritual cartomancy and Western psychology have long sought access to a collective unconscious. The father/mother and Son of psychoanalysis, 2017, is a kind of Buddhist altar to this project, in which a lenticular image of Sigmund Freud and an image of the Greek urn containing his ashes face off under breast-like shrine lights.

This exhibition can be seen as an addendum to Bruno Latour’s concept of secular modernity, defined not only by the radical separation of natural and social phenomena but also by the exclusion of the supernatural. By combining these elements, including ghosts, their new worldview may be the true parliament of all things.

Xin Wang | Of Gentrifiers and Rice | Randian


“CLAPBACK 2.Gently Weeps”

The familiar story of gallery-led gentrification in New York took a fetishistic turn with its latest expansion to Chinatown. Look no further than i-D’s romanticization of “garbage-laden streets” in a profile of the area’s new comers for your daily dose of hipster-doom. While most galleries and art spaces saw nothing more than cheap rent (and just about everything else) and a fusion oriental backdrop, the neighborhood has a way of interfering with what’s on show in the art spaces. Prototypes of joss-paper funerary offerings have been placed in pristine wall niches at James Cohen Gallery, where The Propeller Group’s vertiginous video of distinctly Vietnamese burial rituals is currently on view, in a funeral shop two storefronts down. Even for those sporadic initiatives that do intend to convene a critical commitment, the contrast between the place’s social and aesthetic density and the dearth of imagination in engaging with them is often astounding.

These annoyances set me up for a pleasant surprise at SLEEP CENTER, a project space founded by young artists Rui Lin and Kerim Zapsu at the southern edge of Chinatown (Monroe Street), ensconced among robustly local worship/community/ therapeutic centers. Its recent two-man show featured Hao Ni and Blake Hiltunen, and managed to congeal nicely the disparate sculptural practices of the two in their shared teasing of the sensual (if not the fetishistic) in disparate mediums. During the exhibition’s two-week run, Ni’s “Hickies”—a constellation of found images printed and transferred onto the wall—would remain fresh as Hiltunen’s wax-based “Double Self Portrait” underwent a grotesque metamorphosis induced by a hovering heat lamp. Sometimes one sensed a nod to Chinatown as an unlikely imaginary, which comes in a good range, too. Hiltunen’s readymade of a Styrofoam container lid delivers a deadpan and slightly sinister message: “Destroy Yourself.” Ni’s faux-rice sculptures—kneaded together with embroidered/patterned fabrics or forming a fabulous arch atop two bowls—assert an uncanny claim to monumentality. Another manifestation of this almost non-cynical sense of wonder is “Tiger”, also by Hao Ni; installed deep in the adjacent boiler room, a hologram image of the big cat is at once obscured and accentuated by a translucent floral scarf. It is gorgeous and unapologetic—not to mention extremely comfortable in its own skin.